Friday, September 14, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

USA prepares ground for strike
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 13
Diplomatic observers here believe that the USA is moving methodically, first preparing ground diplomatically before launching the inevitable military strikes against suspects of the September 11 unprecedented terrorist attacks in the USA.

While it obviously remains a top secret as to when, where and how the USA and its allies would launch their retaliatory strikes, these observers believe that the steps taken so far by the USA indicated that even as the military strategy was being planned for reprisal attacks, Washington was first tightening the noose around the suspects diplomatically.

The unprecedented decision of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to invoke Charter 5 of the treaty (that any attack on a member state is an attack on the entire 19-member alliance), the US Congress authorisation to President George W Bush to take any decision in the wake of the terrorist attacks and convening of special meetings of the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council are being considered here as the diplomatic pre-requisites for a decisive and all-out attack on the suspects.

A major point of debate, however, is whether the NATO retaliatory strikes would be confined to air raids and missile attacks only or whether there would be ground attacks too.

According to these observers, if NATO decides to attack Osama bin Laden’s bases in Afghanistan, the ground troops would have to supplement the aerial route efforts. This becomes necessary in view of the typical terrain of Afghanistan which was exploited by the Afghan Mujahideen in their seven-year-long war against the Soviet Union and because of which their guerrilla operations finally forced the Soviets out of Afghanistan.

One drawback of sending ground troops to the targetted area is that it will compromise on secrecy since it would involve movement of thousands of troops which cannot be kept a secret in this age of spy satellites.

However, the observers believe that the USA would not like to repeat the 1998 situation wherein Osama bin Laden escaped unhurt despite the US launching 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles (each costing Rs 2 crore) at Bin Laden’s premises in Afghanistan and Sudan. Incidentally, the cruise missile attacks took place on August 20, 1998, full 13 days after the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which Bin Laden was suspected to be involved.

The observers stressed that while the mode and magnitude of America’s retaliation remained a secret, one thing was absolutely clear : the US reprisal is as effective as it was after the Pearl Harbour attack. If Bin Laden’s involvement in America’s black Tuesday is established, the American reprisal attacks would end only after he is captured, dead or alive.Back


US troops awaiting orders

Okinawa City (Japan), September 13
US troops throughout the world were on high alert today, imposing tight restrictions around American bases abroad and awaiting orders should they be called on to respond to the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

In a measure of the severity of Tuesday’s terror, more than 200,000 US military personnel and their families were put on “Threat Condition Delta,” the highest state of readiness and one very rarely ordered.

On Okinawa, the USA’s most important military outpost in the Pacific, the stepped-up security was unmistakable, though some bases were already downgrading from Delta.

At the gate of one US Marine base, guards had even set up a machinegun with sand bags. But while the security was causing long delays and huge traffic jams, many in Okinawa City said they were ready to accept some inconveniences — and said they hoped the troops would be called on if retaliation is ordered.

“All this security is a good thing,” said William J. Hecox, an ex-marine who now works as a civilian on the island. “Those who harbour terrorists need to be brought to their knees. Hopefully, the military units on Okinawa will help do that.”

Similar measures were taken by US troops in Europe and Africa as well.

Soon after alert orders were issued, two dozen US Navy warships left Mediterranean ports in search of the security of the high seas. At every entrance to American bases in Europe, military police in flak jackets and helmets replaced civilian security staff.

“Delta is usually the result of a direct attack, which we certainly had on Tuesday,” US Navy Capt Brian P. Cullin said at the headquarters of US European Command, which covers operations in Europe, Africa and parts of West Asia.

Tensions are high because the bases are a potential target should there be more terrorist activity, and because they are the resource pool should the USA decide to retaliate with military force.

In Asia, there are roughly 51,500 US troops in Japan, and some 37,000 in South Korea. Though much smaller in scale, there also are US facilities on the island of Guam and on Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean.

But this small island in southern Japan is by far the most crucial.

Okinawa is home to the largest contingent of Marines outside the USA, with more than 15,000 troops deployed here.

Kadena air base, among the largest in the air force, is also located here.

The Navy’s Seventh Fleet is home-ported in Yokosuka, which is just south of Tokyo. It is the only fleet with a home port outside the USA, and has served an important role in previous military actions in the Persian Gulf. APBack

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